I feel like many of us living in the mountains here in NC aren’t so sure of our heritage. I’m definitely included in this, but it’s understandable: Life moves so fast these days that sometimes it’s all we can do to focus on the present and the future. The past oftentimes gets ignored, or even forgotten, it just kind of happens that way.
And I know I just made things really philosophical really fast, but stay with me because I have a story.
I live in Waynesville, which is about 30 minutes from Asheville. My family lives on a farm near Lake Junaluska. (Why I go to school in Asheville is a story for another time) So anyway, the other day my sister and I were riding horses on this old trail that goes through our property and into the mountains. (I know this is getting so cliché but really, just stay with me.) So we got to the top and tied our horses up near a stream while we walked around. And I saw this pile of rocks that I hadn’t seen before, and it didn’t look natural. We walked through some briers to look at it, and it turned out to be a very old chimney, or the remains of one. And as I looked around, I figured out we were standing on top of the foundation of a crumbled stone house. It was nearly covered by plants and just sitting up here forgotten, about a mile from any current houses.
(Side note: this is the trail we were on. It’s an older picture my friend took but it was taken around the same place my sister and I were.)
We got back home and I asked my parents and the people who lived around us if they knew anything about the old house, and none of them did. No one ever goes that far up into the woods anymore, so it didn’t really matter. And I don’t think I’ll ever figure out who that house belonged to because the people who owned our land before us are pretty much gone or unknown.
As I was thinking about this, I discovered I knew pretty much nothing about the land around me and it’s history. Because it was never relevant to my life, I never tried to learn about it. But guys, where we live is important to us and was important to others who lived before us too. So much happened in North Carolina’s mountains that we don’t even know about!!
So because we all love Asheville, or because we all live in it, I researched its history so you guys didn’t have to. (yay!)
232 years ago: the Cherokee nation lived in the southeastern U.S., and North Carolina and land surrounding Asheville was included in the nation’s borders. In 1784, Colonel Samuel Davidson from Pennsylvania received a soldier’s land grant for 600 acres near the Swannanoa Valley River. He had fought with George Washington during the French and Indian War and settled his family at the foot of Jones Mountain.
But that same year, Davidson was lured into the woods by a band of Cherokee hunters and killed. His wife and family survived because they fled 16 miles Davidson’s fort. In response to his murder, Samuel’s twin brother Major William Davidson and Colonel David Smith, both who had served in North Carolina’s militia, led an expedition to avenge his death. The settlers tracked the hunting party to a location near the Biltmore estate, and avenged Samuel by killing several in the Cherokee tribe and scattering the rest.
Months later, in 1785, Davidson’s extended family, including his twin brother, returned to Swannanoa and formed a settlement near Bee Creek. Once it was secured from the Cherokee, Swannanoa began to fill with more families. These early settlements were legalized when the state of North Carolina issued the first Buncombe county land grants in 1787, for 600 acres on both sides of the Swannanoa River. The county grew and by 1790, the population had reached 1000.
Buncombe County was officially created in 1792 and was named after Colonel Edward Buncombe of Tyrell County. And in 1797, the city of Asheville was formed in Buncombe County in honor of Governor Samuel Ash.
So that was a brief summarization of the origins of Asheville. With a population of about 87,000, our city has grown substantially from the river settlement it originally was. Roots are important, and I hope I helped you guys learn a little bit about where we live. So have fun and appreciate all AVL has to offer! Happy adventuring